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Interview with Dani Landers of Studio Fawn

When you hear a game has been inspired by the likes of Harvest Moon, Thief: the Dark Project, and The Legend of Zelda, it’s hard to imagine what kind of game it’s going to be. Personally, I imagine a game where I’m sneaking into dungeon, after dungeon, stealing seeds that I can plant on my farm. It’s probably for best, but that’s not the game we’re getting. Bloom is instead a unique action adventure/RPG that focuses on allowing players to choose how they want to play. Combat, stealth, or simply talking are all options that are available to you.

Dani Landers and her team are striving to construct an adventure that will give us the same sense of discovery and childlike wonder that Zelda games once gave us (or maybe they still do for some people; I had a falling out).

There is one thing in particular that gives me hope they will accomplish this. Take a look at the screenshot below and tell me that you don’t feel a small sense of that childlike wonder already.This among other images is what gives me the most hope for the game. Like I did when I first played Ocarina of Time, I want to explore that world. I want to know what is hidden around every rock, or what the world inhabitants have to say.


 
The Creator, story writer, and artist for Bloom: Memories, Dani Landers has been kind enough to answer some of my questions. Hopefully she’ll be able to tell me what we can expect to find behind some of those rocks.

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Craig Gamache: Hi Dani, why don’t you introduce yourself to our readers, and tell us a little bit about how the idea for Bloom first came to you?

Dani Landers: Hi there. Well, basically I'm a the lead of the tiny indie team "Studio Fawn", as well as one of the creative forces driving Bloom forward. I handle the writing, and art, and most of the design (though the rest of the team also jumps in now and then on that as we throw ideas around).

The origins of Bloom started a couple years ago as a bit of a personal project to create my ideal fantasy world....and from there, it just kept growing as I added more to it (I guess I like to daydream a lot).


Craig: You’ve mentioned quite often that Bloom is a love story, but not the kind of love story we are most frequently told. It’s a story about the love between a parent and their child. It’s a kind of love that almost all of us experience throughout our lives. It affects us from the moment we are born until the moment we die, yet for some reason, it’s a subject that has rarely been explored in video games. Why do you think this is, and why is it the story you want to tell?

Dani: Humm, I'm not really too sure why this theme hasn't been addressed more often. It is something that is common across all cultures (so something people can relate to I hope).

But, my reasons for wanting to tell this story comes from my own relationship with my mother. I really can't overestimate the amount she has been there for me through my life. Now looking back, it really seemed like a one sided relationship; I was always taking and growing at her expense (and I'm who I am today, even creating this game, because of her support).

Having a person who loves you so much, who sacrifices for you, who gives unconditional support...like no one else in the world... it is so powerful (and so complicated!).

I don't know what it is like to be a mother, and I don't really know why she would give everything for me. But I know she would, and I love her so much because of it. It is a little difficult to put into words, but it is just an unspoken and unbreakable bond... I can't think of anything else in the world that matches it.

Sure, greed and power fantasies and lust are things we all feel and are traditionally what games focus on... but, really, when you match it against the feelings between a mother and her child? There is no contest.

 

Craig: Bloom: Memories is not the first game to let you choose the passive path over the violent one. However, games always seem to punish me for taking the passive route when I choose to do so. Deus Ex Human Revolution for example, let me believe I could focus on leveling up my passive skills and then forced me into a fight where I found myself lacking the skills I needed to move forward. Was your decision to make pacifism a viable, if not encouraged, way to play through the game, based on a message you wanted to convey or was it simply designed that way for gameplay purposes?

Dani: The non violent paths in Bloom are pretty important (and encouraged). If you look around at most games today (and our culture in general), we glorify violence and it is everywhere. It is portrayed as exciting, no perceivable consequences, simply "the bad guy" being killed and everyone celebrates. It is a very binary view of the world, with no consideration for "the bad guys" life. The thing is, no one is really "evil"...everyone has people who love them... and I think we shouldn't be so dismissive about mass murder towards those we disagree with (seriously, by the end of some games, you have killed thousands of people!).

But, you also have to accept that doing the "wrong thing" is often easier...and stresses your personal gains over the losses of others. So, we plan to try and do that relationship justice. In Bloom, you definitely will be "weaker" if you take the non violent path (your attacks won't be as advanced, and your body won't be as strong...since, well, you haven't used the lives of others to take from). As a trade, you will have more resources available to you. You will have more friends to help you, more options around problems, and the world won't be as bent on revenge (violence begets violence).

So, I want players to choose what type of person they become by the end of the game. That is part of the experience....making choices, making mistakes, seeing the effects on those you interact with (violently or not)...and in the end, growing (hopefully).

 

Craig: You’ve said that the way you play through the game will affect the nature of the world. If you play through with violence, the world will become a hard and hostile place, but if you play through without causing harm, then the world will show you its loving side. How differently will the game play out based on your choices, will that or other factors warrant multiple playthroughs?

Dani: It will be very different depending on how you play (so multiple playthroughs would be a good idea, especially since we have quite a bit of secrets that might be missed as well). The thing is, it won't simply be more violent if you play violently...but also lonelier. Just as in real life, trying to selfishly and angrily march through life often leaves you alone. No matter how strong you may be, lifting a table alone is still much harder than lifting it with a friend.


Craig: To make Bloom the way you wanted, your team has created its own engine, BloomCore. As building a new engine from the ground up in no simple task, you must have had some very good reasons to do so. Why did you feel it was necessary to create your own engine over using something like unity?

Dani: Yeah, it has been a lot of work just getting up and running in our early build. The reason was basically because we wanted to approach the game in a way that hasn't been done before. Most 2D games (Bloom is entirely a 2D sprite based game) use very few frames for animation...or confine themselves to limited directions (even Zelda games only go with 4-8 directional movement....where as we do 16!). That means we are dealing with massive numbers of sprites and needed an engine that could focus on that technical hurdle (which, most engines aren't...since it is an insane way of approaching an ARPG).

So, I guess it just comes down to a heavy dose of insanity and trying to figure out how to create what we wanted...instead of looking at our tools, and settling on creating what we could with that.

 

Craig: You launched your first Kickstarter campaign back in March of 2013. Despite having a solid launch and a decent final stretch, you fell short of your goal. When you came back with a second campaign in Nov, you not only passed your goal, you reach over 3 times as many backers. What do you think made the difference the second time around, and do you have any advice for someone who might be launching a crowdfunding campaign of their own?

Dani: I think the biggest difference the second time around was our new engine and further developed art style. The last campaign we had a very bare bones engine (which we ended up scrapping). This time, we had totally reworked the approach and were armed with everything from a unique scripting language to a host of custom tools to create more content. Hopefully people recognized our passion in this project, and realized we were prepared to do whatever it took to make something special.

For advice to others trying to crowdfund...I would say just make sure you are doing something that can stand out a little bit. Make something with your heart, that YOU love, and comes from your personal love for games. Oh, also, don't give up :)

 

Craig: When your campaign ended on Kickstarter, you were short of reaching your stretch goal of $63,000 that would have added a prologue chapter. You have however, continued to allow funding through your own website. With people still being able to back currently, is it now looking like we may still get that prologue? 

Dani: We were having some major problems with our website page for a while, so things were a bit slow on that end. But now that we have it up and running again, we are pretty hopeful we can make the goal. We will also be continuing to raise funds as we develop (in one way or another), so I would count on the prologue chapter happening :)

 

Craig: Are there any new developments in Bloom that you would like to bring to light, or any topics I missed that you would like to mention?

Dani: Actually, now that the campaign is over I can calm down a little bit and really focus in on the art some more....so lately I have been doing my best to up the art and take things even further.

It means a lot that the community has put their trust in us. We don't plan to let them down :)
 
Craig: Thank you very much for taking the time to answer my questions. I wish you and your team all the best.

 

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If our readers are interested in helping out this worthwhile project, while also securing them early access to the beta, pledges are still being accepted through Studio Fawn's website.

 

About The Author: Craig Gamache (Staff Writer)

 

Bio: Craig Gamache is a life long resident of Vancouver, BC, who has felt the need to share his opinion on everything gaming related for the better part of the last two decades. Though he enjoys big budget blockbuster games as much as the next gamer, he has recently turned much of his attention to the indie game scene. [READ FULL BIO]

@CraigGamache  : craig@shogungamer.com